Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hit out at the Premier League fixture schedulers who he claims have handed Chelsea a pre-match advantage ahead of their London derby on Wednesday.
Wenger launched a tirade against the fixture list and the standard of Premier League refereeing after his side were held to a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion, with even Gunners legend Thierry Henry coming under fire from the Frenchman.
Wenger broke Sir Alex Ferguson’s record of 810 Premier League games as a manager but he was in no mood to celebrate as he looked ahead to his side’s next game.
“You cannot give West Brom five days to prepare for a game like that when we have three,” said Wenger.
“I am ready to play every day as long as our opponent has played the same time recovery over Christmas. It is not normal.
“We have the same problem against Chelsea. They played yesterday, we played today, they have one day more again.”
A late penalty from Jay Rodriguez rescued a draw for West Brom after Calum Chambers was penalised for handball in a decision that even West Brom boss Alan Pardew admitted was “tough”.
“It wasn’t a penalty,” said Wenger at the start of a wide-ranging rant. “It was not a deliberate handball.
“He (Chambers) didn’t lift his hand. It was down. Where do you put your hands? You have no pockets in your shorts.
“The referee has not seen it. That’s my opinion, he will tell you that he has seen it. Ask him.
“I don’t want to waste my time with them, we have to live with the decision, to deal with it and to swallow it and go to the next game.
“I’m angry because we have seen and seen the same things again.
– Referees ‘untouchable’ –
“I did fight very hard for the referees to become professional many years ago with (then Arsenal chairman) David Dein, and they did a good job to allow them to be professional.
“But I see no improvement. At the end of the day there are two countries in Europe where you have professional referees, in Italy and in England, and not one English referee will go to the World Cup but everything is alright.
“We cannot say a word against it because they’re untouchable.”
Alexis Sanchez had fired Arsenal ahead on 83 minutes with a deflected free-kick and celebrated with all of his team-mates just days after the lack of a group celebration for a Sanchez goal against Crystal Palace had prompted TV pundit Henry to claim there were splits in the camp.
“I don’t listen to what he (Henry) says,” said Wenger. “I focus on our own problems. That is the important thing.
“All these people are paid to talk and it is difficult always to talk and talk and talk and only say things that are true and intelligent.”
West Brom have still not won in seven games under Pardew, who sympathised with Wenger over the crucial late penalty.
“I’d be very upset if it was given against me,” admitted Pardew. “It was a tough penalty. “Obviously the ball has hit his arm and we’re all a little in the dark about what is a handball and what isn’t.
“I can understand Arsene being very angry about that but we deserved it.
“We’ve had three or four games here where we’ve not had a break at all. We went toe-to-toe with Arsenal at times, not all the time, but enough times to take them on with attacking intent.
“It was good for me to see. The messages are getting through.
“It was nice to go into the dressing room and say ‘if you keep doing the right things, you’ll get a break’. And we did get a break.”
West Brom take their fight for survival to West Ham on Tuesday.